AHG Quarterly: What choice do we have?
September 2021 Edition
Dear friends of the Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft,

Voting is at the heart of democracy. And as we return from the summer holidays, posters from parties across the political spectrum remind us that it won’t be long before we can cast our ballots again.

On 26 September, Germany will be electing a new federal parliament. There are also state parliament elections in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania and Berlin and local government elections in Berlin and Lower Saxony.

No fewer than 47 parties are standing in the 2021 federal elections – and although we’ll be using pens to mark crosses on our paper ballots, these elections are still taking place in the digital age. The act of voting hasn’t changed for a very long time, but our society, economy and media landscape have – in short, the system in which and for which we choose our representatives.

We highlight some of the challenges this creates in our projects with the Alliance of Democracies and the Schwarzkopf Foundation. Budding journalist Till Uebelacker from the Cologne School of Journalism goes so far as to call for An update for our dusty old democracy in his #ThinkForwards20xx essay.

This newsletter also looks at some other projects which, even if they don’t directly touch on the topic of voting, do concern state institutions and the frameworks within which they operate. I hope you find it a stimulating read.

Warm regards,
Dr Anna Herrhausen
Executive Director
Free Thinking
Questions for the Board of Trustees
What inspires our team
Disinformation in elections
Although the upcoming German elections will still be taking place the traditional way, using pen and paper, digital technology is playing a bigger and bigger role in politics – and it’s here to stay. This development opens up great opportunities for the democratic process. But it also brings with it risks and unintended consequences, such as disinformation campaigns and ...
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Digital Europe
The Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft project Digital Europe 2030 looks at the form the digital transformation could and should take in Europe. Thinking about different possible scenarios for the future can help us to better manage the complexity and uncertainty around us and prepare for what lies ahead. Working with a group of experts, we envisioned three ...
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Digital political education
Another way that we’re working to strengthen democratic values in the digital context is with the Digital Europe Fellowship, a political education programme that we run in partnership with the Schwarzkopf Foundation Young Europe. As part of this programme, four young educators from Armenia, Malta, Romania and Turkey are developing workshop formats aimed at students aged 13+ with a focus on the digital public sphere and youth participation. The aim of the workshops is to promote democratic participation in digital spaces.
Free Thinking
Ideas for an open society
In his essay An update for our dusty old democracy, Till Uebelacker, a student at the Cologne School of Journalism, discusses the potential of digital voting. Given rapid technological advances and the introduction of e-voting in several pioneering countries, it’s looking increasingly feasible for Germany to go down this route too, at least for the next set of federal elections after this one. Being able to vote online would have particular advantages for young people. But before introducing e-voting, it’s important to learn about the risks, to educate voters and to put the right technology in place so we can continue to ensure the integrity of our democratic process.

#Thinking Forward

Our project #ThinkForwards20xx, which we run jointly with the Cologne School of Journalism, gives young people a forum to present their perspectives and arguments on the key issues of the future. Learn more about the opinions of tomorrow.

One example is Jakob Schreiber’s essay I am free – and that is why I am trapped, which powerfully expresses how hard young people (and indeed everyone else) often find it to make the best life choices from among the almost infinite options available to them. Is that why we increasingly rely on recommendations from algorithms? The agony of choice: for some, it’s a classic First World problem; for others, it’s an almost existential dilemma.
The German parliament supports urbanisation in Africa
Cities are growing rapidly across the world, especially in Africa. Improving urban living environments is crucial to achieving global development goals. This aim is bound up with issues of ecological sustainability, social and political stability, and economic growth – including all the associated opportunities and risks. The ...
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The German elections and their impact on transatlantic relations
The New Urban Progress (NUP), the panel discussion Forward to the future: The German elections and the transatlantic view on 15 September will explore what effect potential political configurations after the elections could have on transatlantic cooperation. Together with the political commentator Elisabeth Niejahr (director of the ...
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Questions for the Board of Trustees
Our Board of Trustees provides invaluable input and inspiration for our work. In this issue of our newsletter, we talk to Prof. Martin R. Stuchtey, Professor for Resource Strategy and Management at Innsbruck University and founder and managing partner of SYSTEMIQ.
Read interview
What inspires our team
The World of Yesterday: Memoirs of a European
Stefan Zweig, Frankfurt am Main, 1970
Samuel Walker, Project Manager Europe:

"In a time when we’re caught between “the world of yesterday” and “the world of tomorrow”, it’s worth reading this classic and remembering the tremendous upheavals that modern Europe has already gone through. Stefan Zweig looks back at the period from before the First World War to the outbreak of the Second. The book’s incisive analysis of the upheavals during this time has implications for the present."
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Legally responsible for content: Matthias Weber, Head of Programme, Free Thinking, and Head of Communication